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Since the 19th century scientists have known the positive correlation between poor hand hygiene and higher mortality rates through bacteria or viruses. So, how can people in the general population improve their hand hygiene practices, what are the consequences of continuing poor hand hygiene and just how easy is it for bacteria or viruses to infect a surface?

One of the key ingredients of placing a positive emphasis on higher hygiene practices is something that many would be surprised. An out-an-out approach of simply producing products is not enough to encourage handwashing, rather tracking data and effective story telling are the valuable assets in changing the end users narrative (Hinds et al: 2017). In an experiment conducted in 2017, Monash University gathered qualitative data from a sample of twenty interviews. The results were interesting observations before and after providing a narrative of potential hygiene weak points, respondents reacted positively, leading to greater hand hygiene standards (Hinds et al: 2017). It seems clear that a strong narrative and providing a risk assessment of handwashing facilities can ultimately result in positive hand washing practices for users.

So what’s the actual cost of continuing poor hand hygiene practices? Data has shown that hospital acquired infection has costed $35.7-45 billion US dollars per year according to the World Health Organisation (Scott: 2009). The World Health Organisation research also suggests that hospital acquired infection has potentially led to at least 80,000 deaths in the United States (WHO: 2017). The key cause of hospital acquired infections is poor hand hygiene with a lack of compliance to hand hygiene standards, which result in infections being spread to patients in hospitals. For the general population this can potentially put many at risk of health complications as well. Though in context a hospital setting is quite different to being in other public places, it should not be understated that poor hand hygiene practices spreads germs and viruses to others potentially resulting in illness or death in extreme cases.

Indeed, it’s important to note that poor hand hygiene standards can increase the likelihood of spreading germs, bacteria and viruses amongst others, but how long can such organisms survive on different surfaces? The New England Journal of Medicine (2020) found some interesting discoveries in relation to this with two separate viruses SARS-CoV-2 (Better known as Coronavirus) and SARS-CoV-1 (Sars Virus).

Based on the results the two viruses would decay after certain period of time on the following surfaces:

Aerosols: 3 hours

Plastics: 72 hours

Stainless Steel: 72 hours

Copper: 4-8 hours

Cardboard: 8-24 hours

As the table indicates, viruses can last for up to three days on some surfaces. What is most concerning is common surfaces such as cardboard, particularly in a retail setting where poor hand hygiene practices could easily result in staff spreading viruses through contaminated cardboard cartons when stocking shelves. It’s a slippery slope that can result into large numbers of people getting exposed to potential health risks in retail outlets. So it’s important to understand why people should uphold high hand hygiene standards throughout everyday life.

It’s clear that upholding high hand hygiene practices are important in preventing the spread of viruses in the general population through a strong narrative highlighting how hand washing measures can be better implemented. The cost of doing so is significant causing a burden to the healthcare industry. By upholding high hygiene standards, this ensures that harmful viruses, bacteria or germs are not left on surfaces for others.

At Enware, we have a vast array of tapware solutions that can support your business and improve hand hygiene practices, to see how we can support you, contact our team here or call 1300 369 273.


WHO. (2017). Evidence for Hand Hygiene Guidelines. Retrieved from

Scott, R. (2009). The direct medical costs of healthcare-associated infections in US hospitals and the benefits of prevention. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2009. In.

The New England Journal of Medicine (2020). Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2
as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. Massachusetts Medical Society; 2020. USA.

John, K.J., Campbell, D., Armstrong, M.C., Degnan, A., Hinds, J. (2017). Non-Compliance and Hospital Acquired Infection: Using Design Methodologies to Improve Hand Hygiene Practices. Monash University. Australia